UK Spread Betting Platforms Spread Betting vs CFD Trading – Differences and Platform Reviews
Michael Graw
Fact checked
Fact checked
Everything you read on our site is provided by expert writers who have many years of experience in the financial markets and have written for other top financial publications. Every piece of information here is fact-checked. We sometimes use affiliate links in our content, when clicking on those we might receive a commission - at no extra cost to you. By using this website you agree to our terms and conditions and privacy policy.

Spread betting and CFD trading are two popular forms of trading shares, forex, commodities, and more in the UK. While these two types of trading have a lot in common, there are also some important differences to consider.

In this guide, we’ll compare spread betting vs CFD trading  and help you decide which is right for you.

Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Main Differences

Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between spread betting vs CFD trading:

  • Spread betting is tax-free; profits from CFD trading are taxed at the capital gains rate.
  • Spread betting is commission-free; CFD trading may incur commissions and fees.
  • Spread bets have fixed expiration dates; CFD contracts can be held indefinitely.
  • Spread bets are placed over the counter; CFDs are traded within the market.
  • Spread bets can be placed in any currency; CFD trades must be placed in the currency of the underlying asset.

Spread Betting vs CFD Trading Comparison

Spread betting and CFD (contract for difference) trading have a lot of similarities in addition to their differences. Here’s how CFDs vs. spread betting stack up:

Spread Betting CFD Trading
Tax Implications Pay no capital gains tax or stamp duty. Losses cannot be used to offset capital gains from other financial instruments. Pay capital gains tax on profit. Losses can offset gains from CFD trading profits. Not subject to stamp duty.
Commissions & Fees None. May charge commissions or holding fees. Many CFD brokers offer commission-free trading.
Spreads Must pay a spread when trading. Must pay a spread when trading.
Rising or Falling Markets Can go long or short to profit in either market direction. Can go long or short to profit in either market direction.
Leverage Leveraged products; margin varies by asset. Leveraged products; margin varies by asset.
Expiration Date Contract has an expiration date and can be closed anytime before then. No expiration date. Long and short positions can be closed at any time.
Direct Market Access Traded over the counter with a broker. Spread bets are not transferable. Direct market access. CFDs are transferable between CFD traders.
Profit Calculation Profit or loss is equal to the difference between opening and closing price, multiplied by your investment amount. Profit or loss is equal to the difference between opening and closing price, multiplied by your investment amount.

How CFD Trading and Spread Betting Work

CFD Trading and spread betting are two types of derivative products that allow you to speculate on the price movement of an underlying asset. The underlying asset can be shares, ETFs, forex, commodities, indices, and more. With both types of derivatives, you never own the underlying asset.

When trading CFDs or spread betting, you can take a long position or a short position. That means that you can speculate that the price of an asset will rise (long position) or that it will fall (short position) and profit in either direction. Your profit or loss is simply calculated as the difference between the asset’s price when you close the trade minus the price when you opened the trade, multiplied by the amount of money you invested.

In addition, you can leverage your trades when using either CFDs or spread betting. Each asset will have a different maximum leverage that is set by your broker based on its financial risk. Depending on your broker, you may or may not be able to customise the amount of margin you use when trading CFDs or spread betting.

Within those broad strokes, there are some nuanced differences between spread betting and CFD trading.

How Does CFD Trading Work?

When CFD trading, you are opening a contract with your broker or CFD provider. You may need to pay a commission to open or close the contract, and there may be holding fees such as overnight or swap fees that add to the cost of your position.

Importantly, CFD contracts are transferable between CFD traders. That means they are traded on the open market, and many brokers provide direct market access (DMA). This increases transparency in the CFD market and increases the value of fast trade execution speeds.

How Does Spread Betting Work?

Financial spread betting is similar to CFD trading in that your position starts by opening a contract with your broker. However, there is never a commission to open a spread bet.

Spread bets are not transferable between traders, so they trade over the counter directly with your brokerage. In addition, spread bets have expiration dates. The bet can be closed at any time before the expiration date, but it will automatically be closed at that time if it has not already been closed.

Spread Betting vs CFD – Tax

One of the main differences between spread betting and CFD trading lies in how profits from these 2 derivatives are taxed.

Tax law in the UK and Ireland exempts both forms of trading from stamp duty since you never own the underlying asset. However, CFD trading is subject to capital gains tax (CGT), while spread betting is not.Spread Betting vs CFDs Taxes

That means that if you make a profit from CFD trading, you must pay capital gains tax on those profits. If you suffer a loss while trading CFDs, you can use that loss to offset profits from other CFD trades or from trades with other financial instruments. Profits from spread betting are not taxed, but you cannot use losses from spread betting to offset profits from CFD trading or other types of investments.


Another way CFDs vs spread betting are different is in the fees you pay to trade. You may pay a commission or transaction fee to open a CFD trade, while spread bets are never subject to commissions. The positive news is that many CFD providers now offer commission-free trading.

For either trading CFDs or spread betting, you will need to pay a spread. This is the difference between the bid and ask price of the underlying asset that you are trading around. Spreads can vary by asset and may fluctuate based on liquidity in the market.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when using CFDs to trade forex, you will need to purchase the CFD in the appropriate currency for the forex pair you want to speculate on. That means that if you are trading forex pairs in currencies other than GBP or USD, you may pay currency conversion fees to your broker.

Spread bets on forex pairs can be opened in any currency, so you do not have to worry about currency conversion fees.

Expiration Dates

CFDs vs spread bets also differ in whether you have to worry about contract expiration dates.

CFD contracts do not have expiration dates. Typically, contracts are set out for a period of one month at a time, but your broker will automatically roll your position over into a new contract before the old one expires. So, you can keep your position open for as long as you want (although there may be holding fees and increased margin requirements if your position is losing money).

Spread bets, on the other hand, do have expiration dates. Typically, there are 2 types of spread bets: those that expire at the end of the trading day, and those that expire on a quarterly basis. Depending on your broker, you may be allowed to roll over your spread bet into a new contract. If you do not roll over your contract, your bet will automatically be closed at expiration.


Spread betting and CFD trading are both regulated in the UK by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). This is the UK’s primary financial watchdog, and it sets rules that govern how brokers can issue leveraged financial products for retail investor accounts.

An important thing to note is that spread betting is only allowed in the United Kingdom and Ireland. However, CFD trading is allowed around the world. So, all brokers that offer spread betting are regulated by the FCA. But some brokers that offer CFD trading in the UK may be regulated by foreign authorities, such as the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC).

One thing that investors should note is that you cannot trade cryptocurrencies in the UK through CFDs or spread betting. The FCA has banned all cryptocurrency derivatives trading, which includes both CFDs and spread betting.

List of Spread Betting Brokers

Want to start trading using spread betting? Let’s take a closer look at two popular spread betting platforms available in the UK today:

1. Pepperstone – Spread Bet with MT4, MT5, and cTrader

Pepperstone LogoPepperstone is a comprehensive spread betting broker that’s suitable for beginners and expert traders alike. The broker stands out for offering a wide range of trading platforms, including the popular MetaTrader 4, MetaTrader 5, and cTrader platforms.

All three platforms allow you to build your own custom technical indicators and backtest strategies for in-depth analysis. On top of that, the MetaTrader and cTrader platforms put an emphasis on risk management and give you access to advanced order types to help you manage trades.Pepperstone Spread Betting

In addition, Pepperstone offers social trading through MetaTrader 4 and Myfxbook. If you’re interested in trading forex, these social trading platforms can be extremely helpful for connecting with other spread bettors and learning new trading strategies.Pepperstone trading platform

Pepperstone’s range of markets is somewhat limited. The broker offers around 180 financial instruments, including more than 60 forex pairs and 60 popular stocks from the US. The company offers extremely low spreads with leverage up to 30:1 on major forex pairs, so it’s one of the cheapest spread betting platforms in the UK.

Pepperstone is regulated by the FCA and all UK accounts come with negative balance protection. The broker offers 24/5 support by phone, email, and live chat.

Your capital is at risk.

List of CFD Brokers

If you think CFDs are the right fit for you, you have a ton of options when it comes to choosing a CFD trading platform. Let’s take a closer look at some:

3. eToro

eToro LogoeToro is a UK CFD provider. This broker offers trading on more than 2,000 shares from exchanges around the world, including in the UK, US, Europe, Australia, Hong Kong, and South Africa. In addition, eToro has CFDs for over 40 currency pairs and 25 popular commodities.

CFD trading with eToro is 100% commission-free, which is a huge advantage for traders looking to keep costs down. The broker’s spreads are in line with the UK industry average for most assets. While eToro does charge a small withdrawal and inactivity fee, these are straightforward to avoid.

eToro Homepage

eToro has its own custom trading platform, available for web and mobile devices. The platform includes over 100 technical studies and drawing tools, along with a market news feed and an economic calendar. You can also see whether other traders on eToro are buying or selling an asset, which makes it easy to quickly spot changes in momentum.

trade forex etoro

Perhaps the most-well known feature of eToro is its social trading platform, where you’ll find tens of thousands of other CFD traders from around the world. You can share trade ideas, success stories, and trading strategies. In addition, eToro supports copy trading – so you can follow professional CFD traders and mimic their portfolios with just a few clicks.

eToro Social Trading

eToro is regulated by the UK FCA and is widely considered to be trustworthy. All UK trading accounts are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for up to £85,0000. eToro offers customer support by phone and email, 24/5.

Sponsored ad. Your capital is at risk. 68% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

4. Libertex – Zero-spread CFD Broker with Advanced Trading Platforms

Libertex LogoLibertex is another CFD trading platform in the UK. This broker stands out for its low-cost pricing structure, which eliminates spreads from your CFD trades.

libertex homescreen

Instead, Libertex charges small commissions that can be as low as 0.008%, which is below the industry average for forex trading in the UK. Helpfully, the commissions are fixed for each asset so you always know how much your trade will cost.

Libertex doesn’t have the widest selection of assets to trade, but most traders will find plenty to focus on in the hand-picked selection. This CFD broker has more than 50 currency pairs and around 80 of the most popular US stocks. You can also trade a range of stock indices and commodities through CFDs with this broker.libertex

Libertex offers 2 trading platforms: its own custom Libertex platform and the popular MetaTrader 4 platform. Both are available for web and mobile devices. We particularly like that Libertex’s custom platform is flexibly designed and includes a market sentiment gauge to help you track changes in an asset’s price momentum. It also offers a variety of order types for risk management and a built-in market news feed.libertex trading platform

Libertex is regulated by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC). The broker offers customer support by email only.

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. 74% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.


Spread betting and CFD trading are financial derivatives that allow you to speculate on the future price of an asset without actually owning it.

Before you choose between spread betting vs CFD trading, it’s important to understand the differences between them. A big advantage of spread betting is that it is free from the capital gains tax, while CFD trading is not. On the other hand, CFD trading is available outside the UK and Ireland and CFD contracts do not expire.

Once you’re familar with how spread betting works and what CFD trading is, you can get started with a free account at a broker.


Are spread betting and CFD trading the same?

Can I trade CFDs commission-free?

Why is spread betting free from capital gains taxes?

Can I choose how much leverage to trade with when using CFDs or spread betting?

What is direct market access?

Michael Graw

Michael Graw

Michael Graw is a freelance journalist who covers finance, trading, and technology. His work has been published on numerous high-profile websites that cover the intersection of markets, global news, and emerging tech. Michael has also written for StockApps, Buyshares and LearnBonds

Before starting his career as a freelance writer, Michael studied at Cornell University where he obtained a BA in Microbiology. He then went on to recieve a Ph.D in Philosophy from Oregon State University. With 6 years of finance writing under his belt, Michael is an expert in his niche and has built up significant industry knowledge during his time as a writer. Michael writes informative content with the goal of supporting readers to make better financial judgements.